With over 22 years of legal experience, Screnci Law takes pride in it's continued commitment and hands on approach in the handling of estate cases for loved ones thoughout Florida.
What is the Probate process?
Probate is the legal process that distributes the persons assets after death to the proper beneficiaries or heirs through a court appointed personal representative or petitioner that administers the estate. In Florida, the probate process can vary depending on the value of the assets in the estate, whether the decedent had a will (testate) or whether the decedent had no will (intestate).
If the assets in the decedent’s name alone are less than $75,000.00 and/or the decedent has been dead for more than two years, the estate will qualify for a Summary Administration. When filing for a summary administration, a petitioner is necessary to administer the estate in accordance with the last will and testament or Florida intestate laws. The proceeding begins with filing a petition that includes facts of the decedent, eligibility for a summary administration, a list of assets with their values, a statement disclosing any debts at the time of passing, if any, and a plan of distributing the assets. The court will review the petition filed, and if accepted, issue an order distributing the assets. Upon the issuance of the order, the assets of the estate are instantly distributed to beneficiaries and creditors.
The most common probate proceeding is a Formal Administration. Unlike a summary administration, a personal representative is necessary to distribute assets in the estate. In order to qualify for a formal administration in Florida, the value of the estate must exceed $75,000.00 and the decedent has to have been dead for two years or less. When determining the value of the estate, it is important to remember that only the assets that were held in the decedents name alone go through probate. A formal administration begins when the executor nominated in the will, or another interested party, asks the circuit court to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate. Generally, the probate proceeding takes place in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of death. Beneficiaries and heirs (people who would inherit in the absence of a valid will) are given notice, so they have a chance to object. The court issues a document called a Letter of Administration, which gives the personal representative authority to settle the estate. If there’s a will, it must be filed with the court and proven valid. This may be done by having the witnesses to the will give statements, under oath, about its validity. Or, if the will is “self-proving,” it’s enough to submit the document itself. Under Florida law, a will is self-proving if the witnesses, when they watched the will-maker sign the will, signed a statement in front of a notary public. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 733.201.)
Under the court’s supervision, the personal representative gathers and inventories assets, pays debts and taxes, and (eventually) distributes what’s left to the people who inherit it. The personal representative must submit a final accounting to the court, showing what the estate contained, how the assets have been managed, and the plan for distributing them to beneficiaries. After everything has been distributed, the personal representative files evidence (receipts) with the court, and asks that the estate be closed. The court issues an order closing the estate and relieving the personal representative of further responsibilities. Typically, the whole process takes six months to a year depending on how complex the case is.